Chetro Ketl Ruin, Chaco Culture National Historical Park
- New Mexico
AIMVfiftSITY OF GEORGE
DEC 1 1 1992
Entering the soft, grey twilight of the Washing-
ton Cathedral, one slips into a pew, the silence disturbed
only by the soft sounds of other travelers who have also
stopped at this great sanctuary.
They come to look, to pray, to collect them-
selves, or to seek a restful moment
Think now of the walls removed. In place of the
pews there is a red desert floor, hardened by thousands of
footprints. The altar is now a kiva.
Nothing has changed. The space is still sacred,
even without ceilings and walls. People still come here for
much the same reasons as do the travelers to the Washing-
ton Cathedral or to a little church in any small town in
But unknowingly, deeply held customs and
practices are sometimes violated.
... At Chaco Culture National Historical Park in
New Mexico early in 1992, a Navajo maintenance crew
employed by the National Park Service discovered
cremated human remains spread in the "great kiva" at
Navajo belief dictates that the dead must be
avoided and their burial places left undisturbed. To
expose themselves to locations or things associated with
'Ancestors are still there
... Spirits are still there.'
the dead could adversely affect their personal health and
well-being. Family members could be affected as well.
The "cremains" were carefully removed and
returned to the family of the deceased.
The incident prompted the Southwest Region of
the National Park Service to draft a new policy, which
went into effect in 1992.
Permits to scatter cremains will no longer be
issued in Southwest Region parks where American Indian
sites represent the prominent resource.
Burial permits may be issued for interment only
Inscription House Ruin, Navajo National Monument - Arizona
jn established cemeteries. No burials of any kind are
allowed outside designated cemeteries.
The Southwest Region encompasses Louisiana,
Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and the
northeastern one-fourth of Arizona.
Even as the policy was being put into effect ,
cremated human remains again were spread in the great
kiva of Casa Rinconada.
The problem is a serious one that can have an
adverse effect on both the Navajo and Puebloan people, as
well as on other American Indians.
In the Southwest Region mere is a great,
ongoing concern for American Indian lifeways and
respect for the cultural past, as well as for their current
cultural patterns and traditions.
Descendants of the earlier inhabitants still
maintain their cultural traditions and ceremonies in the
environment of lands and structures administered by the
National Park Service. For instance, some of the lands
where Navajo now live were once occupied by ancestors
of current-day Pueblo people.
Ruins at sites all over the southwest may look
... Intentions are the best, but
the results often are in serious
conflict with traditional Beliefs
of the Indian people.
merely like ruins to the visitor, "but they aren't aban-
doned by any means," an Indian employee of the
National Park Service points out. "Ancestors are still
there. Spirits are still there. The Pueblo people still visit,
still consider it the same as going to a lived-in place. And
there is respect for all these sites among all the Indian
Many national parks were created to recognize
particular ethnic groups and their cultural heritages.
Examples include Cape Krusenstern National Monument
in Alaska which exhibits native Eskimo culture, Kaloko-
Honokohau National Historical Park in Hawaii which
preserves the native culture of our 50th state, Nez Perce
National Historical Park in Idaho which deals with the
history and culture of the Nez Perce Indians, and the
French Quarter unit of Jean Lafitte National Historical
Park and Preserve which interprets ethnic populations of
the Mississippi River delta region.
In Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and
Utah, at least 23 park units were created specifically to
preserve aspects of American Indian heritage. Many other
units throughout the West also contain the ruins and
sacred sites of some of these cultural groups.
* * * *
Diagram of the Great Kfva at Aztec Ruins National Monument
'^Z^ c ^^^^^^^^^?^^^^^S ! a
White House Ruin sits at the base of the sheer red difts in Canyon de
Chelty National Monument
View of 12th Century Wva and the reconstructed Great Kiva at
Aztec Ruins National Monument - New Mexico
. . . for the benefit
of the people
Yellowstone National Park's founding in 1872
marked the beginning of a national system designed to
protect America's most precious natural and cultural
resources "... for the benefit and enjoyment of the
people," (Act of March 1, 1872).
The National Park Service was officially
established on August 25, 1916, by the "Organic Act" to
" promote and regulate the use of the Federal areas as
national parks, monuments, and reservations ... by such
means and measures as conform to the fundamental
purpose of said parks, monuments, and reservations,
which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural
and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide
for the enjoyment of the same in such a manner and by
such means as will leave them unimpaired for the
enjoyment of future generations."
Within the National Park System are more than
350 areas covering about 80 million acres in all 50 states,
the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto
Rico, Saipan and the Virgin Islands.
Although most Americans are familiar with a
number of national parks - such as Yosemite, Grand
Canyon and Yellowstone - many may not be aware that
places such as the Jefferson National Expansion Memo-
rial in St. Louis, the Statue of Liberty - even the White
House - are managed as national park units.
The National Park Service is charged with the
guardianship of some of our nation's most valuable
natural, cultural and historical resources. These resources
are inextricably woven into our national heritage and
constitute the sights, the scenery, the environments, the
people and the events that are the elements of our charac-
ter as a nation.
An understandable expression of this elemental
link is the desire of some Americans to have their remains
interred on park lands. Many units of our National Park
System actually contain national cemeteries; others retain
established cemeteries of historic communities or have
family plots within their boundaries. For instance, the
Great Smoky Mountains National Park has more than 100
cemeteries inside its boundaries.
Management of established cemeteries on
national park and monument lands falls under federal
regulations and policies by which all parks and visitors
View from Talus House Toward Tyuonl Ruin at Bandolier
National Monument - New Mexico
Spider Rock towers over sacred Indian lands in Canyon
de Chelly National Monument • Arizona
UZzSmUZz^- t -z^ r
policy on human burials
and the spreading
National Parks whose primary purpose is the
preservation of cultural heritages shall not be used for
human burial, except in designated cemeteries .
~ Park superintendents will not grant permits to
anyone to scatter human cremation ashes in these parks by
any means; for example, spreading by hand at a ground
location or dispersal by aircraft flyover.
~ Superintendents are empowered to take the
necessary steps to prevent the unauthorized scattering or
burial of cremation ashes or any other type of interment
outside designated cemeteries.
Southwest Region parks whose primary re-
sources do not relate to the culture and history of Ameri-
can Indian tribes or other ethnic groups, or do not contain
evidence of pre-Columbian or historical American Indian
cultures must conform to:
- National Park Service Management Policies,
1988 - (Chapter 8:16- Cemeteries and Burials).
- Code of Federal Regulations (36 CFR 2.62 -
Inquiries should be directed to the Office of the
Superintendent of the park in question.
UNIUERSITY OF GEORGIA LIBRARIES
Protecting cultural heritage :
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3 ElOfl D^fiB T5Efl
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